Monday, July 7, 2008

DIY: Making Natural Non Toxic Dye

This week I have been spending a good deal of time in the kitchen, cooking up natural dyes. I am actually surprised that after 7 years of art in college I had never learned to make paints, toxic or non toxic. But after reading an awesome post on Crafting a Green World about how to make your own milk paint, I got to thinking even deeper into how to make pigments since the colored pigment can be as toxic as the binder. What I found out was a creative revelation that I can not stop cooking up! My personal criteria for creating pigment/dye is this:
* It can not be toxic in any way, even if the substance is natural.
* It has to be in abundance and easily gathered in nature (don't ever take so much that the plant can't survive or make seeds.)
I totally hit the jack pot when I walked outside to find that my landlady next door has a plum tree with a gazillion plums that had already fallen to the ground and were being eaten by bugs, rotting, fermenting, gushy ect......
My dye experiment begins....
I began by skinning the plums and using only the dark burgundy red skins - I left the fruit for the wild critters, and kept the seeds and planted them - in hopes to grow some of my own plum trees.
The supplies you'll need to make your own fabric dye are as follows: water (filtered or spring is best) salt or vinegar, spare pot not used for cooking, something to measure with if you like to get things exact.

I used salt as a dye fixative, since I was using fruit, but if you are making your dye from flowers, leaves, plants etc - then it is suggested to use vinegar.
The recipe I found was SALT: 1/2 CUP SALT TO 8 CUPS COLD WATER, VINEGAR: 4 PARTS COLD WATER TO 1 PART VINEGAR.
I simmered my fabric in the salt fixative for approx. 1 hour, then rinsed and rung out - before putting the fabric in the dye.
Once the fabric had the fix in it, I went ahead and dumped the plum skins in some fresh water and simmered those for a while. It was so amazing how red and beautiful the water turned right away...
I strained out the skins and returned the dye to the pot and then start dipping the locally woven organic cotton into the plum dye! How freakin' awesome, cause it started turning almost hot pink right away and stuck right to the fabric.Then I let the fabric simmer lightly in the dye for a richer color for about an hour, all steamy, hot and sooooo pretty!
I allowed the fabric to sit in the dye overnight to make sure it had the darkest outcome possible since when it is rinsed and dried the color will be alot lighter.
I hung it to dry in the sun, until the rain came and I moved it to this window....
Isn't it pretty in pink? All that from a couple discarded plums! Yay! It's really easier then it looks and the whole process was so relaxing and fun. There are fantastic lists of natural stuff you can use for dye in just about every cool shade of color you can imagine. Go to http://www.pioneerthinking.com/ for a complete list of plants, berries, nuts and bark that can make a rainbow of fun, safe colors. Plus get more detailed instructions-a simple google search for "make your own natural dye" turns up tons of recipes for a wide variety of colors.

7 comments:

Nickstruck said...

I am amazed and astounded by your multitalented funtastical crafting ideas. There are so many awesome ways of doing things that aren't harmful to the earth. Thanks for sharing some of them!

The Oko Box said...

thanks! everyday i learn some new way of doing something - i love that nearly everything can be made non toxic. now what i need is a solar oven so that i don't even need to use electricity to cook up the dye brew !

Melanie said...

Wow! I wouldn't think to do that! That is really cool!

Anonymous said...

That is amazing. What are you cooking up next?

The Oko Box said...

After the plums I tried some grass and red onion skins to make a yellow color. I found that that yellow wasn't very deep since i only had a little onion skin, so I mixed the leftover pink form the plum with it and made a light dusty pink color, with a textured organic cotton. I will soon post the project I sew with these two fabrics- but I can't stop making dye right now :)

grechen said...

that is awesome...i wonder if i could do that with blueberries?? or are they better for a nice cobbler lol?

The Oko Box said...

Hey Grechen!

You can use blueberries! My whole idea was to use the fruit that seems less then edible - like use some of the blueberries for your cobbler and the gooshy/weird ones for your dye. If you were to cook down the blueberries in a food safe pot and drain the dye in a food safe collinder then you could actually keep the pulp for your cobbler too - then use the dye juice for fabric/paint !!!